Any casual watcher of last night's Republican debate may have come away thinking that women don't have much at stake in this election. After all, of the questions CNN chose, less than a third were even from women. (Sadly even in cutting edge political forums, like The Daily Show, that's typical. In the last year, of the 140 guests of the Jon Stewart Show 13 have been women of which only 4 were not actresses.) The Democrats have Hillary as a candidate this year, which puts women front and center. For the Republicans, though, it's pretty much a choice between graying, gray or bald white men, all of whom seemed to nod in agreement on one breathtaking policy initiative for women that surfaced in last night's debate: the DIY abortion.
The question from the "young lady" was: If abortion is outlawed then who is the criminal, woman, doctor, or both? This has always been the sticky question for the anti-abortion side. Do they intend to start locking up women for murder? Fascinatingly, Fred Thompson, National Right to Life's endorsed candidate, said no. He suggested that some people will be able to perform abortions at any stage of pregnancy with no fear of prosecution: women on themselves. Thompson explained his (and one would figure, National Right to Life's,) bold new plan that would kick in once Roe is overturned: "The question is who get penalized and what should be the penalty. I think it should be fashioned along the same lines it is now. Most states have abortion laws that outlaw abortion after viability and it [the criminal penalty] goes to the doctor performing the abortion not the girl, the young girl, her parents, or whoever it might be. I think that same pattern needs to be followed." So, under this plan, a woman is free to perform abortions on herself, possibly with the help of her parents or "whoever it might be" as long as a physician or healthcare provider who is actually skilled to provide safe abortion care isn't involved. The last time the United States banned abortion -- pre-Roe -- doctors faced only minimal penalties for providing safe care. Apparently Thompson, and every GOP candidate except Giuliani appeared to agree, that was a mistake. The crime of abortion, if (and apparently only if) performed by a doctor, will be murder and extreme penalties will apply. Of course, the details will have to be worked out. Electric chair or lethal injection, that's still up for grabs. But it seems clear that the environment post-Roe will be harsher than pre-Roe. The clandestine network of safe abortion services that sprung up last time might not emerge this time. The risk for physicians would be too great. And so women who can't reach safe care will be much more likely than women before Roe to take matters into their own hands, which apparently the Republicans don't mind.
During last night's debate, there were some anti-abortion ideas dismissed as too preposterous. Will there be a "federal abortion police" force? Candidate Ron Paul seemed to think that would be too difficult. But it's not been too difficult for other "pro-life" wonderlands and so it's probably not exactly off the table as a possibility. In El Salvador, for example, they do use police. Actually they're called "Forensic Gynecologists," and they investigate possible crime scenes (aka: women's bodies) after a miscarriage because, of course, once abortion is illegal every miscarriage is suspect. The immediate past AG of Kansas, Phil Kline, attempted some version of this; seizing abortion patients records in an attempt to find misdeeds on the part of the physician. Given the pro-life movement's attempts to conflate abortion and contraception, with the cooperation of "pro-life" politicians, it's any wonder the scope the GOP has in mind. While Governor of Massachusetts, a bill that would have made emergency contraception (EC) more widely available came to Romney's desk. He vetoed it because, he believes, EC is an "abortive" drug. So, would Romney propose that doctors who dispense EC face the same criminal penalties as those providing what is traditionally known as abortion?
In 2005, Geraldo Flores was a boyfriend of a desperate pregnant teen. Flores' girlfriend, believing she was unable to get a legal abortion in her state of Texas, asked him to strike her in the belly and cause a miscarriage. He did, and succeeded. He's now serving life in prison for doing it. Under the GOP plan, he would have to be a doctor to do that kind of time.
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